A month after ousted ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra fled the verdict for criminal negligence and several media reports quoted a source from her party that she has likely joined her brother Thaksin in Dubai, Thailand’s junta leader today has finally confirmed the rumor.
Prayuth Chan-ocha’s first clear comments on Yingluck’s whereabouts came a day after she was handed a five-year jail term in absentia for negligence. The ex-prime minister ghosted out of Thailand, ducking the Aug. 25 court ruling over charges she failed to stop graft and losses in a costly rice subsidy policy initiated by her government.
A Bangkok police officer has now publicly admitted that he drove the former Thai leader in a Toyota Camry to Sa Kaeo, a province that borders Cambodia, the night before she was to appear in court to face corruption charges related to her rice-pledging scheme.
On Wednesday Thailand’s top court sentenced her in absentia to five years’ jail, pulling the plug on her political career.
She maintained her innocence throughout the case, which she said was a political frame-up engineered by her family’s enemies among the arch-royalist army and elite.
“I learned from the foreign ministry that now she is in Dubai,” said Prayuth, who toppled Yingluck’s government from office in a 2014 coup.
Once a fresh arrest warrant is issued, Thai authorities may proceed with extradition efforts, he told reporters
Yingluck’s older brother Thaksin, also a former premier, has a home in Dubai.
The 2001 rise of Thaksin, a billionaire former cop with a magic touch at the polls, rattled Thailand’s establishment and the country has since see-sawed between elected governments and coups.
He fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid jail on a graft conviction he says was politically motivated.
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, a key architect of the coup that took down Yingluck’s government, said “it’s good she is in Dubai.”
“Although don’t have extradition treaty… Dubai officials informed our foreign ministry that they will not allow Yingluck to make any political move.”
The 50-year-old, who still has the right to appeal, has not appeared in public since pulling the vanishing act on August 25, her initial ruling date.
The Shinawatra siblings lie at the centre of a political battle that has chewed at Thailand for more than a decade.
Shinawatra-backed parties have dominated electoral politics since 2001, enraging Bangkok’s military-allied elite.
Unable to beat the Shinawatras at the polls, their rivals have turned to court rulings and coups to repeatedly knock their governments from power.